Fly Tying Tips

Fly Tying Tips

Fly Tying Tips As a longtime commercial fly tier, I'm used to people marveling about how fast I can tie flies. Truth is, short of an emergency deadline, or a late night followed by an early morning trip, I prefer to tie slowly and methodically, but when the heat is on I am proud to be able to knock some flies out of the vise very quickly. Given that we'd all like to tie faster, whether from a commercial tying standpoint or simply to ease through a batch of flies with less time and effort, I offer these 11 tips compiled after years behind a hot vise.

Fly Tying Tips :


1. Practice

Practice. I know everyone is hoping for a magic bullet to speed up their tying immediately, but frankly, I never encourage anyone to try to tie quickly. Speed comes from familiarity, and familiarity comes from practice. Knowing the pattern at hand well enough to tie it from memory, knowing the materials and order of steps, and feeling comfortable and at ease with the process leads to easier, more efficient tying. Practice, practice, practice. The more flies you tie, the better you'™ll get, and we all know there is no such thing as too many flies. Branch out and tie a wide variety of patterns, even if you may not think you'™ll fish them. Each pattern contains a lesson, and the more patterns you master the more techniques you'™ll become familiar with.

2. Never Put Down The Scissors

Never put down the scissors. Ever. Carry your scissors looped over the ring finger of your dominant hand, inserting your thumb into the opposing loop when needed to make a cut. This leaves the rest of your fingers available for normal tying procedures, with the tool stowed safely, and at the ready, in the palm of your hand. Keeping the scissors in your hand at all times eliminates losing them amid a pile of errant materials, and has them ready for any job, from clipping the butt ends of a tail to separating hair clumps for a wing. Carrying the scissors may feel a bit awkward at first, but it quickly becomes second nature, and is a tremendous time saver.

3. Get Organized

Get organized. Stopping to search for each tool and material is a speed killer. Set out only the essential tools and materials on your bench and place them in the same spot each time you tie. Dubbing goes on my left, my whip-finisher at the base of my vise, and my hooks are spread out on the right. Having only the required materials available, and in the usual spots, eliminates hunting down everything. The tying process becomes much smoother and more efficient without a gigantic pile of slag to sort through after each step.

4. Start With a Short Tag

Start with a short tag. I have saved at least $4 in thread over the duration of my 30 years of tying by starting my thread with just a short tag. Because I don'™t have to stop and trim a longer tag end, this little rule has saved me much more time than money. Small things like this make a big difference in the long run. Save a step wherever you can, and flies start to fall out of the vise much more quickly.

6. Separate Your Hooks

Separate your hooks. Shake your hooks from the package so they fall loosely on the table and are well separated. It'™s quicker and easier to reach over and grab loose hooks, rather than having to untangle them one at a time from the box or from a knotted pile.

8. Prep Materials

Prep materials. I usually cut all my strands of flash to length, and set them on the bench before I tie, so I don'™t have a static-charged mess to deal with on each new fly. Select and size your hackle beforehand so the feathers go straight to the hook without any extra steps. I also prepare lengths of poly yarn for wings, spade hackles for tails, marabou, rubber legs, and foam strips, by cutting them to usable lengths so they are ready to lash to the hook. For weighted flies, wrap the lead wire onto all the hooks ahead of time. This way, you only deal with the wire one time. Install all beads onto their hooks in one step as well, so you don'™t have to fumble with them. The best way to learn to put beads on a hook is to sit down and put beads on a hundred of them. You'™ll quickly develop your own method to boost your efficiency.

9. Loosen Your Dubbing

Loosen your dubbing. Natural dubbings like beaver, hare'™s mask, and rabbit fur typically come tightly packed in a baggie. The fur is often matted and hard to work with. Run your natural fur dubbings through a coffee grinder/dubbing blender, or use my canned air and Ziploc bag technique to loosen up the strands. Loose dubbing is easier to separate, adheres to the thread more evenly, and is more efficient to apply.

5. Be Efficient

Be efficient. Make short circles of thread with your bobbin. A short length of thread between the end of your bobbin and the hook is easier to control and faster to wrap. Don'™t make more turns of thread than are necessary. If two tight wraps will secure a material, don'™t make seven. Be conscious of wasted efforts and steps. Rather than clipping off fine wire with your scissors, simply grab the end tightly in your fingertips and snap it toward the bend of the hook. It will break off cleanly and save the more precise step of trying to trim it flush with your scissors (and it won'™t dull your scissors).

7. Use Good Tools & Materials

Use good tools and quality materials. Dull scissors and rough bobbins are time thieves. Any tool you have to fiddle with — or adjust — steals seconds away from efficient tying. Sharp scissors cut where you need it the first time, smooth bobbins don'™t fray the thread and cause setbacks. Quality materials also contribute to efficient tying. Consistent, evenly mixed, and loosely separated dubbing adheres to the thread easily without having to take time to weed out unneeded guard hairs or knits.

10. Skip The Head Cement

Skip the head cement. On most trout flies, head cement tends to goober things up and clog the hook eye. This not only slows your production, it causes frustration onstream. On small flies, head cement only serves as a backup if a poorly tied whip'‘finish comes untied. Solution: Tie a good, tight knot, and call it good. When I use head cement on larger patterns, it is more from an aesthetic standpoint to create a glossy, 'œfinished' look and it does little to improve the durability of a fly.

11. Think About It

Think about it. If you concentrate on making quick efficient turns of thread, not fumbling with materials, smoothly applying each piece to the hook, and moving your hands quicker each time, speed comes much sooner. The result will be not just fly boxes overflowing with flies, but better flies overall.



Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie's Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of Charlie's Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011). He is also the featured tier in the iPhone app FlyBench, available in the iTunes store.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Here are step-by-step instructions for tying the Strong Arm Merkin fly. Fly Tying

Tying the Strong Arm Merkin

David W. Skok - July 09, 2019

Here are step-by-step instructions for tying the Strong Arm Merkin fly.

Fly Fisherman's documentary Industry

Fly Fisherman Magazine Documentary Recognized by Outdoor Writers Association of America

Fly Fisherman - June 24, 2019

Fly Fisherman's documentary "One Path" was recognized with two awards.

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game. Fly Tying

Perdigon Nymph

Charlie Craven - January 15, 2019

These dense, indestructible nymphs will improve your subsurface game.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Breaking the Surface

Breaking the Surface

Attack of the Bass continues as Breaking the Surface attacks bass with fly and lure 12:30pm ET Sunday, April 17th.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top models on the market today. Gear

Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most common applications you'll encounter on the water. How-To

Picking the Perfect Fly-Fishing Leader

George Daniel - January 22, 2018

George Daniels offers his advice on which types of fly-fishing leaders are best for the most...

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones are brightly colored treasures. Trout

Alpine Lakes for Remote Monsters

Landon Mayer - April 18, 2018

You don't always catch large trout in these alpine lakes and streams, but even the small ones...

See More Stories

More Fly Tying

If you are careful with these details, you'll have perfect dry-fly hackle you can be proud of. Fly Tying

Neat Vertical Dry-Fly Hackle every time

Charlie Craven - June 29, 2017

If you are careful with these details, you'll have perfect dry-fly hackle you can be proud of.

A Jack Dennis classic, first designed for the Jackson Hole One Fly. Fly Tying

Tying the Amy's Ant

Charlie Craven

A Jack Dennis classic, first designed for the Jackson Hole One Fly.

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done. Fly Tying

Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin

Charlie Craven

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done.

See More Fly Tying

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×